They're using their feeds, they have lots of followers, but most of them don't really know what they're doing -- yet.
Call it Twiplomacy, Facebook diplomacy, weiplomacy, or simply digital diplomacy, the use of social networks has become an integral part of government communication. The new tools of the "21st Century Statecraft" -- a term coined by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -- are rapidly replacing fax and telex, and are becoming as important for government leaders, ministers, and diplomats as the telephone, email, and diplomatic cables. In the near future, no one will be able to become a leader without digital followers, and no diplomat will be well-positioned to represent his or her country if he or she does not personally engage on social networks. And it is not the size of the followership that matters, but the quality of the conversations.
The year 2012 has seen a marked increase in the use of social media -- especially Twitter and Facebook -- by heads of state and government, ministers, and diplomats. The entire governments of Chile and Mexico, and their ministers, are on Twitter. The most recent world leaders to join the social network are E.U. Commission President José Manuel Barroso (@BarrosoEU) and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron (@David_Cameron), who signed up on October 6, 2012, immediately prior to the U.K. Conservative Party Conference. Neither of them are tweeting personally. David Cameron once said in a radio interview, "The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it -- too many twits might make a twat."
Twitter is probably one of the easiest social-media tools to use in government communication. It allows the broadcast of short, 140-character messages to a large audience, well beyond any country's borders. Despite receiving massive abuse in the first hours of his foray into the Twitterverse, David Cameron's team kept his 120,000 followers abreast of his activity during the party conference. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez used Twitter to rally his 3.6 million followers and secure re-election on October 7, 2012. Twitter helped Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves debunk a negative news story about his country in the New York Times, and Rwandan Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi uses it to converse directly with his followers every Friday.